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Traditional Shepherd’s Pie

If your Shepherd’s Pie recipe calls for ground beef, you’re being lied to! Shepherd’s pie is made with the lamb that once frolicked on the hillsides. If your recipe (or menu) calls out ground beef, you’re making (or ordering) Cottage pie. The former is a tribute to the sheep-herding heroes of yore, and the latter is a nod to those who prefer their animals more, uh, grounded. Both dishes hail from the British Isles and have been comforting hungry souls since the days when wearing armor to dinner was de rigueur. But let’s be honest, nothing screams “traditional St. Patrick’s Day dish” quite like a pie that can hold its own against a pint or two of Guinness. Whether you lean towards the lamb-laden depths of Shepherd’s Pie or the beefy embrace of Cottage Pie, you’re in for a treat that promises to stick to your ribs and warm the cockles of your heart.

And since no St. Paddy’s celebration is complete without a nod to the homeland’s beverages, why not pair your pie with a robust Guinness stout? Its dark, creamy depth is the perfect counterpoint to the rich, savory filling of the pies. Throw some biscuits or soda bread on the side to round off the meal. Because let’s face it, if you’re going to celebrate, you might as well go all out. Here’s to a feast that would make St. Patrick himself ditch the snakes all over again and settle in for a bite.

To make a traditional Shepherd’s Pie with lamb (not beef), here’s a recipe that serves 4-6 people. This comfort food is perfect for a cozy dinner.


For the lamb filling:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound (450g) ground lamb
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup (240ml) beef or chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup (150g) frozen peas

For the mashed potato topping:

  • 2 pounds (900g) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup (120ml) milk (or as needed)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg yolk (optional, for a golden crust)
  • 1 cup coarse shredded cheddar cheese (optional, mix half in with the potatoes, sprinkle the other half on top before baking)


Preparing the lamb filling:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ground lamb, breaking up the meat with a spoon, and cook until browned.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute.
  5. Pour in the broth, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until thickened slightly.
  6. Add the peas and cook for another 2 minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Preparing the mashed potato topping:

  1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Add the butter, milk, salt, and pepper.
  3. Mash until smooth. If using, mix in the egg yolk for a richer topping.
  4. Mix in 1/2 cup cheese. (Optional)

Assembling and baking:

  1. Spoon the lamb filling into a 2-quart baking dish.
  2. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top. Use a fork to create ridges for a crispy top.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on top. (Optional)
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling.
  5. Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Ultimately, the true magic of whipping up a traditional Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie for St. Patrick’s Day transcends the mere act of cooking. It’s about conjuring an atmosphere where laughter dances through the air, stories grow taller by the minute, and the modern world’s incessant buzz fades away. So, as you lay the table with your hearty pies and pour the dark, frothy Guinness, consider this an invitation to embrace a more intimate gathering. Turn off the TV, let your phones take a well-deserved rest in a box by the door, and open the floor to the kind of storytelling that would make even the most seasoned Irishbard green with envy.

This meal isn’t just food; it’s a vessel for connection, a chance to weave the fabric of friendship tighter with every bite and every tale. Let the rich, savory layers of your pies serve as the foundation for an evening where the only notifications are the chimes of laughter, the only scrolls are for an extra serving, and the only status updates are about who tells the wildest story. Tonight, let’s dine to satisfy our hunger and celebrate the joy of sharing, the warmth of company, and the irresistible charm of an evening unbound by the digital world. Here’s to a night where we all discover the Irishman within, ready to regale, rejoice, and revel in the simple pleasure of good food and great company.

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